By Shannon Baker
M. Mahdi wanted to be a good Muslim, but the more he studied Islam, the more disturbed he became.
“I went deep in reading the Quran. I was fasting. I was praying five times a day. And I read explanations about how to understand the verses of the Quran,” shared Mahdi. “Of course, my expectation was this: My life will be much better. I will have more peace.”
Mahdi grew up in the country of Iraq, which is predominantly Muslim. But as he focused on his faith, he wasn’t comfortable with the evil he encountered in the Islamic scriptures.
“I went to some elders to understand and to ask them about the verses that allow Muslims to attack others and kill infidels [those who did not believe in Islam],” he said. He didn’t understand how he as a Muslim had the right to kill an infidel and to take his wife, and do whatever he wanted with her, all under full authority of the Quran.
Mahdi couldn’t reconcile this with the loving God he was pursuing. “For me, this is impossible to be from God. If God wants us to hate each other, to kill each other …”, he said, his words trailing in disbelief. “That’s what the devil wants!”
As a young man, Mahdi struggled for a while, discussing it often with many elders. He was surprised by their responses. “They just said, ‘You have to accept it. That’s from God. You are not better than God. It’s not about your feeling with your heart. It’s about God and what He says. This is right, and we don’t have to think about it.’”
But Mahdi just couldn’t accept it this way. He expected God to fill his heart with love for others and with peace, and to help him be a better person, who dealt with people better. But instead, he felt very tired of reading the Quran, very tired of praying and all the other Muslim expectations, all of which actually commanded him to be “worse than before.”
The elders surrounding him didn’t take his concerns lightly. Mahdi often had conflict with them, which escalated into big fights—and even police attempts to capture him. He allegedly “was speaking something against God, which I didn’t,” Mahdi said.
So he decided to lay it all out before God. “God, are these people right or am I? I love You. I want to follow Your commands,” he prayed. “But for me, it’s impossible that the Quran belongs to You. “
His prayer resolve became stronger. “It’s impossible for me. I just reject it… I feel in You but I don’t believe that this book belongs to You.”
In just a few short weeks, God answered Mahdi’s prayer. He happened among two friends who were arguing about the “Holy Bible,” a term he soon learned was the New Testament, something he should read for himself. Mahdi actually laughed at his friend’s suggestion that he read it—and even more—that he believe in it.
But he took the Bible and told himself, “Maybe his advice is good.”
He started reading the Gospel of John. He related, “I remember I started like 5 or 6 in the afternoon, and I couldn’t stop reading for 16 hours. It is unbelievable how everything touched my heart.”
He said the Bible was very different from what he was used to in the Quran. “How can God ask me to love my enemy, or to pray for people who hate me or whatever?” he asked, surprised the Bible instructs Christians to “treat people how you want people to treat you.”
“Of course, I want people to love me, to respect me, so this is acceptable. I should love people,” he stressed.
After awhile, Mahdi realized he was not reading anymore. “I was dreaming. I was living with Christ through the Bible. I was walking with him. I was hearing His voice. I feel about that time I was touched totally by God, and I got faith.”
With his newfound faith, Mahdi wrote down 40 or more questions and asked his friend to explain this and that for him. His friend referred him to a pastor who wisely said, “I don’t want to answer your questions. You will get your answers from God. I don’t want to make Christianity beautiful in your eyes. I just want to have you as a friend to see what we are doing, what we are praying, what we are talking about—and to have you discover about Christianity personally.”
In just two short weeks, Mahdi got some of the answers he needed directly from God. “God is love. God is mercy, and I want to be accountable before God and before people,” he realized.
He explained the Bible helped him forgive others and to receive forgiveness for all the bad things he had done. “This is what I found in Christianity and what made me walk with Christ and surrender myself to Christ,” he said.
From that point on, Mahdi began serving the Lord, most notably by ministering to Muslims. He was forced out of his home country, and ended up in Jordan, where he was discipled in his faith, and then later on to South Africa, where he studied theology. He later moved to Sweden, where he evangelized, baptized and discipled many Muslim-background believers.
He recently visited the metro-Washington, D.C., area, where he would love to to work with an Arabic church reaching out to Muslims. He seeks sponsorship so he can officially move to the United States.
It is his prayer that many Muslims come to faith in Jesus Christ, whom he now believes to be the true “way, truth and life” (John 14:6).
The Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network dreams of planting more new churches among many different people groups, including Muslims, Jewish people, African Americans and families with special needs. For more information about reaching Muslims, contact S.D. Abraham at (800) 466-5290 x268.